Lightning hits 3 films

Shingle picks up Australian pics

SYDNEY — Los Angeles-based sales shingle Lightning Entertainment has taken international sales rights to three key Aussie films and has a further four in development, signaling renewed enthusiasm for product from Down Under and a hint of the personal bias of the shingle’s topper.

For roughly a decade during the 1980s and 90s, Richard Guardian held senior positions in Oz. Now the head of Lightning since 2002, he’s currently got five Oz pics on his sales slate.

The three new acquisitions include broad, coming-of-age drama “Hey, Hey, It’s Esther Blueburger” starring newcomer Danielle Catanzariti as a 13-year-old at private school, with Toni Collette and Keisha Castle-Hughes.

“West,” which screens at the Berlin Film Festival this week in Generation 14Plus, follows a group of working class kids from the suburbs for new director Daniel Krige.

“Kenny,” a low-key laffer about a hard-working plumber, was the highest-grossing local pic Down Under last year. Despite its colloquial charm, Guardian thinks it might have legs abroad.

A Stateside sales campaign is under way with “Kenny’s” helmer and star team, brothers Clayton and Shane Jacobson, on hand for screenings.

“The picture bowled me over with its heart and charm; it’s a real working man’s film,” Guardian says.

Odeon Sky Filmworks has acquired U.K. rights to “Kenny” with a commitment to give the pic a long, slow rollout akin to the Oz campaign.

In Oz, “West” will release though arthouse shingle Palace this year, while BVI is handling “Blueburger.”

Guardian says he has observed a change of attitude among the three first-time directors of the pics, which he hopes will usher in the end of the era when the financing trigger was too often pulled too early.

“This generation looks at government schemes and subsidy as a privilege, not a right,” Guardian says.

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